©Copyright CJ Magro, Paratroopers of the 50's

The Phenix City Combat Zone: Ma Beechies - The Rose Room - Hillbilly club
Slots - and of course Trooper Slug Fests

The above cover was taken from a book by, Peyton Quinn

No site that claims to tell about the Paratroopers of the fifties would be complete without telling about Phenix City, Alabama. 

Phenix City, a small town located north of Ft. Benning in Russell County , Alabama on the Georgia - Alabama  line was probably the most notorious military town of the late forties and early  fifties.

(Editors note: Paratroopers for some reason have always had the God given ability to create notorious towns around their bases ; some would say it caused by the personalities of people who would volunteer to Jump out of planes into combat ) 

Paratroopers of the 50's can only tell you the general facts and some stories of Phenix City . 

It will be up to the GUYS who were there to tell us the real good ones. "SO WE EXPECT YOU TO SEND THEM IN." 

Ps, We will not use your name . We do not want to be responsible for any divorce and/or your kids and grand kids finding out what a low life type your were when all your body parts functioned much better !!

WE need stories and pictures(send as many as you like = no limit). They can be funny, serious, commentary or documentary but at least 90% true

OK OK make that 80 %

Send Stories to:    magro@hiwaay.net

The following stories are listed in the order they were received
(more or less).

(Editors Note: When I was going from the induction center at Montgomery Alabama to Ft. Jackson, SC. in September of 1954, we went through Phenix City and it was being guarded by the Regular army and the Alabama National Guard. All the Bars were closed and boarded up. This was after the State's Attorney General who was investigating PC was shot in the head and killed while parked in an alley.
A movie was made about the town after that. I believe the name was "Sin City The Phenix City Story")

One of the Soliders on duty was CWO-2 J W Taylor (BigJohn) of the 11th. ABN 26th Combat Airborne Engineers; here is his account of those days.

I don't really remember just what month we were sent to Benning, but we were there over a year on standby duty. I was a CWO1 at the time and had been assigned to the transfer of prisoners between Army Bases and Ft. Leavenworth. I returned to Ft. Campbell, after a transfer of two prisoners and was ordered to Ft, Benning GA.
Upon arriving, we were briefed as to what had been going on and what was to be expected of us. The Dept. of the Army wanted a group of unbiased personnel to take charge of the recent Marshall Law Order. J Egar Hover, Head of the FBI had declared Marshall Law after a rash of crimes had taken place within the city of Phenix Alabama. It was thought that several personnel from Ft. Benning were involved, which included several Civilian's, Officers and enlisted personnel. All areas of Phenix City was off limits to all Military Personnel except for Special assigned personnel assigned to this special duty. We were housed in an area off Base, away from regular Military Personnel stationed at Benning.
I was assigned to a Combat Airborne Engineer group. The Dept of Army wanted experienced heavy duty equipment operators in had in case they were needed. Several barricades were developed in and around the city some were earthen and some were of construction material.
I was stationed in the center of the 14th. Street Bridge armed with a Fifty caliber machine gun, fully loaded with live ammo. Tanks, 4X6s, troop carriers plus artillery were displaced in and about the entire City. You could not enter or leave.

This unruliness had been going on for many years. Several Military personnel had been murdered over the years, the FBI planted several of their agents within the City and all activity was reported to J Egar Hover. When he had enough information he went to the President of the U.S.A. and obtained permission from him to declare Marshall Law.
It was reported that the following activities were taking place: Prostitution (white slavery act of using 14 year old Girls to perform acts of prostitution) Gambling, Loan Sharking, Murder, Robbing lone Military personnel sometimes leading to their deaths. Unlawful sale's of Alcohol and Drugs, Receiving Stolen Merchandise and, it went on and on and on.
The first few weeks were very rough as everyone wanted to go against the Declared Marshall Law. There were several skirmishes in and around the City. Several warning shots were fired to control unruly crowds. There were reports of civilians firing on troops deployed within the City and also reports of civilians being wounded and or injured. The area's where I was assigned didn't have much trouble.
But I did fire several warning shots into the angry crowd of civilians, after we had been fired on by the crowd. We had been subjected to rock throwing earlier and it escalated into a real frenzy, when we were fired on I returned fire into the crowd, not caring if I hit someone or not.
After the second week of Marshall Law and with the rounding up of several suspected ringleaders and the arrest of several hundred others, the City became very quiet. Small incidents would pop up around Town from time to time and after several weeks that even became a thing of the past.
John W Taylor

Here's what Norm aka Sposs, had to say:
Don't know any first hand stories about Phenix. Never went there when I was at Benning in '55 all the "big" bad stuff was already history. Hell Columbus, GA wasn't exactly unanimously in love with us either. In '55 many businesses in Columbus still displayed "Off Limits", "Keep Out--All dogs and soldiers", etc. signs. If you were arrested by the Columbus police your chances of coming out of jail with lumps on your head and an empty wallet were very good it happened to one of our guys ( a SFC ). His "drunk and disorderly" fine ( he never saw a judge ) just happened to equal the $285 he had in his wallet---plus they beat the hell out of him.
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Here's what the Silverfoxe had to say:
I was only at Ft. Benning for about two weeks, but remember that we were told that if we did go to town, especially Phenix City, to watch our backs. We were also told that numerous G.I.'s were found floating in the river. Sorry I can't be more helpful.
I think your site is the best.
(Editors Note: last sentence had nothing to do with Phenix City but DAMN it just seemed soooo fitting)
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A club that sat outside of town was the Hillbilly Club.
It was very large complete with bandstand and dance floor. I remember one of my first experiences at the club. At that time I was not a big fan of C&W (Country & Western) music so I was waiting for the band to break so I could play the juke box only to find out that the band never stopped one by one a new player came up to take the others place. I learned to appreciate C&W.

Another visit was to introduce me to proper manners at the club. While seated at one of the tables I noticed a scuffle at a table one of the "hostesses" slammed a fifth bottle over a troopers head he went down and I can still see him on the floor reaching up to the table trying to recover. The bouncer came over and threw HIM out.

My room mate was as tough as they come he would always put on some boxing gloves and want to "spar" I served as his punching bag since my science of the art was not as accomplished as his.
One morning I woke up to see his head all wrapped up like a mummy. I asked "what the hell happened?" He said he went into town; it was the end of the month before pay day. He had gone into an off limits place and when he placed a twenty to pay the bartender zapped him with a black jack. It split his head open. He turned to look at the guy and he said the look on the bartenders face was of amazement that he was still standing.
He then proceeded to punch the guy out. He said the only thing he could figure was the bartender wanted the $20. Our captain was organizing a "go into town and tear the place up party" when headquarters got wind of it and stopped it.

Another "classy place" was Ma Beechies. You might not get hurt jumping from a plane but at Ma Beechies you could get hurt without too much effort. The place was complete with "girls" slots, bar and of course a back room. I remember one of the gals seated at the bar in shorts , legs crossed and on her thigh a tattoo of a cherry and underneath it said " Here's mine where's yours?"     The place was class all around.

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My good Buddy, John Boney wrote:
When I was in Benning in 1953 I stayed as far away from Phenix City as possible. I had heard about the things that went on there and knew my NY City Connection and Accent wasn't going to work too well over in Alabama.
(Editors Note: Now there's a smart NY Trooper)
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The Troopers comment about Columbus was right on.
Our fist Sargent was forever spending his money bailing a student out. One student was shot and killed after he broke into a store--he was unarmed and offered no resistance. The Columbus police did not hesitate killing him.

I was standing on the sidewalk in Columbus were a Black fellow was double parked a police car came along side him the cop leaned out the window and said" move along or I'll club you.   "This was my introduction to the Columbus Police."

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The weapons of choice among civilians was either a gun or knife also known as the Georgia boxing glove.Knife
One night we were in a bar , my buddy and a civilian Got into a disagreement. The civilian said "lets take it outside of town".
It was crazy but we followed this guy anyway. We got to a parking lot of a beer joint and my buddy took a full fifth of booze with him when he got out of the car. The other guy got out and he had a handgun. My buddy with his bottle intimidated the guy to put down the gun and go at it with fists and proceeded to kick the crap out of this guy.
By this time a crowd of 10-12 had gathered. One guy standing next to me said " You guys didn't need to worry about the gun; we wouldn't have let him use his gun" He then opened his coat to expose an arsenal!!    How I survived PC I will never know.
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Memoir's of a Benning Trooper
When I first went to jump school at Fort Benning I went with a veteran from WW2 who had re enlisted and was from Alabama and knew the ropes about Phenix City, he taught me the do's and don't about the city a lesson I never forgot and I really never had any trouble the whole time I was there. Every time I could get a pass, the first place I would go was to Phenix City.

There was just an excitement about the place, every thing was wide open, drinks over the bar, gambling, stage shows and anything else you wanted, something you  didn't see in the south . It was just exciting  to go to a bar and buy a drink and see a floor show.

They  had some nice clubs and some were rough where anything went. You had to decide which one you wanted,  if you choose the wrong one and did the wrong things when you were there you could get into serious trouble. Because there were joints where you were
just another mark and they had no feelings for you in anyway except for your money, the guys that went to these places were the ones that usually got into trouble.

It has been so long since I was there I really don't remember most of the names, but most of them were off limits  to military personnel, of course there was just good advertisement for them, but they were off limits for good reasons and a lot of GI's just couldn't understand the reason.

One of my favorite places was Beachies Howards, when you first went into the place the bar was on the right,  tables to the left,  and the stage in the middle of the tables. They had some good shows, of course they had a game room it was in  the back.

Ma Beachie always sat to the right at the end of the bar and watched everything that
went on and knew just what to do when trouble started, she got it stopped before it got out of hand. It was probably my favorite place, mostly because I went with a dancer who worked there and knew all the bouncers and they kind of kept an eye out for me and I guess that kept me out of trouble.

If you wanted trouble you could find it anywhere in Phenix City and most all the locals just loved to bust heads at the drop of a hat.  It was nothing for about half  the GI's to get rolled on the first of the month and to win any money at the tables was impossible. They made their on dice and cards in fact they made all of their gambling equipment to make sure they won all the money, if they didn't win it they would take it. It was mostly  the ones that tried to gamble that really got into trouble.

If you went over there just for drinks and fun you usually didn't have any trouble, unless you got into a fight with another GI over a girl, and that happened quite often.

Most people went across the 14th street bridge that was where the clubs started and ran past the city limits the farther you went out the worse they were, that was where
most of the cat houses were.  I'm sure you all know what a cat house is,  if you don't you must have been in another branch of service.

Every bar in the city had some form of gambling most of the smaller bars only had slot machines and occasionally you could win a few dollars on them if you hit it and quit, if
you stood in front of it long enough it would get your money too,

Phenix City ran wide open from the early forties until late 1953 or early 1954. That's when Albert Patterson was shot because he changed sides and tried to clean up the city, anyway he got enough publicity from it to get elected Attorney General of the State of Alabama .
The thugs just couldn't stand it so they shot him.

The Governor of Alabama sent in the National and closed the place up tight. The Sheriff, the Solicitor and one of the big name racketeers was convicted of his murder.

Albert Patterson  son was elected the new Attorney General,   thus ending the saga of "Sin City"

Now it is like all small towns,  I went back there a few years ago and if you didn't know its history you could never believe it was as bad as it once was.

Just an add on, the 900 block of Broad St. used to jump pretty good and any troopers that were there should remember the "Bazaar" you couldn't get in it on payday night,  no gambling but lots of wine, women and song.

If anyone out there remembers this place, drop me an email .

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I heard a story from an old timer who had been a soldier at Ft Benning way back when.
It seems that if you won at cards down in Phenix city, your life might be in jeopardy depending on the pot.

The way out, for a GI, was to call the MPs and have the place raided, yourself and your friends arrested. The First SGT of the MP Company usually required a share of the winnings to be "donated" to the MP Company party fund or something like that...a good cause.

The one time this guy told me about, they actually had to run a decoy MP vehicle back in to Benning, which was followed by "locals". The actual GIs and their winnings "E & E'd" back to base in another MP Vehicle.

Great web sites...a pleasure to visit and rekindle memories.

Editor's Note:
Now you might be wondering what the last line has to do with the story....
Nothing , I just forgot to remove it !
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An Email from J.  McG
I was one of those old guys you talked about; Class B-33A, Airborne School, Ft. Benning, 1947.  We used to go to Phenix City regularly, mostly because the joints in Columbus were pretty dull.  We were young, strong and wanted to play.  Also we had an old [late 20's] Cajun Field Sgt. that convinced us that any one of us could take on any six civilians with no problem and if we couldn't it was Ft. Jackson SC and reassignment to the Infantry - busted out of Airborne.

We never went to Phenix in groups of less than six and we usually went to the Seven Up Club but once in a while we would go to Beachie Howard's.  Those 'Bama boys thought they were pretty tough but you know it seemed like the only people they messed with were single GI's.  One night I got separated from my buddies for a minute, I think I stopped to chat with a little lady of the evening on the street while they went on into 7-Up.  As I started into the club a US Navy Sailor came slamming through the door cussing his head off; seems one of the local girls had cleaned out his pockets while he was trying to get her to clean his pipes and when he complained the bouncer explained the facts of life to the swabbie and gave him a couple of love taps just to put an explanation point on the instruction.  I heard the sailor say something about police while he was headed out the door but we were there for a couple of hours and I never saw a cop.

Once in a while the local good ol' boys would line up on the bridge between Phenix City and Columbus and would grab an occasional drunk GI and toss him over the rail into the river, but they never messed with our group. Seems they had a bad experience with a group of Troopers and the locals wound up in the river with a few lumps and bumps and they learned not to mess with several Troopers in a group.  Remember that Ft. Benning was home
of the Infantry School and OCS at that time so there were plenty of Legs for the locals to mess with.

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Here's what a local "Bullfrog" had to say:
YOUR SITE IS GREAT! (Editors Note: He obviously knows what he talking about)
I was born and raised in COLUMBUS, GEORGIA so I'm one of those bad assed local boys mention so often by your guest writers. Better yet my uncle was a 509 th. BATTALION TROOPER and made the first US Combat Jump in Algeria in 1942 .Our family had a dairy farm in Smith's Station, Alabama so we where in and out of Phenix City all the time. In the 40's, Phenix City was even worse than you guys are saying; the sleezest clubs were just across the Dinglham Street bridge.
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Got this one from our Guest Book, courtesy of Paratrooper, David Parker.
Just to let you know. I'm from Phenix City (notice no "O" in Phenix. I'm active duty, and went to jump school in 1986. I had to get the CDR's (Col Scott) permission to go to Phenix city, just to visit my folks. It seems my home town was once again "off limits" to students. I was told is was due to the "locals" trashing young solders. It seems some things are slow to change. I was an "Army Brat" so I never gave young soldiers a hard time (well anyway-you can't prove it). Your site was fun for me to read as it supports most of my relatives stories.
To anyone who was hurt in my lovely little town. "Boys will be boys".
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Got this one from A "COLONEL" who puts out a Great Airborne Magazine -- will let you guess who -- You can click on the "COLONEL" to find out.
In the fall of 43 after finishing jump school I was sent to the Alabama Area for training as a demolitionist. While in jump school we got no passes so my first visit to the "City" came after getting wings. Was almost my last! Five of us went together and to "Beachies". My buddy "T" had an "arrangement" with one of the "ladies". She rolled him after the "act"!
While trying to get his wallet back the Phenix City "finest" showed up and we got busted. On the way to the lockup we broke out the truck door and ran! The "finest" opened up with their pieces---but, damn poor shots, thank the Lord. They were all "beer belly" cops and outrunning them was no sweat.
The Cops came to the Alabama Area next day requesting a "line up" of the Company.
The CO had advance word about it and we got a three day pass for Birmingham that morning so we'dbe out of the net during the line up.
No airborne officer in those days would give Phenix City cops the time of day! By the way, "T" not only got rolled---he got the "clap" as well!
One more story. Around Oct 43 there was a big "to do" between the Phenix City "zootsuiters" and troopers. Seems like the "zootsuiters" were pissed because all the girls were hanging around troopers. They gathered at the "bridge" and were throwing individual troopers in the river. Word got back to the bus station in Columbus and about 50 troopers headed for the "bridge". Minutes later, the river was full of zootsuiters. Next day, Benning CG put Phenix off limits. Next time I saw Phenix City was in Fall 44 while at OCS. Never went there then as you'd get busted out of OCS if you got into trouble there. Saw "Phenix" again in 57 while stationed at Benning.
It had changed---or maybe, I had!
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Another great story by a 40's Trooper who recalls some exciting days in Phenix City

I was in combat at Atu and Kiska in the Aleutian Islands when our Regiment, the 4th Infantry was brought back to the States. Went to Fort Lewis, Washington and then to Fort Benning. I was attached TDY to the Dispensary at the " Jump School" for ninety days in 1943.
I Went to PC quite often. As I remember it the first Cafe (saloon) on the right side of the street after you crossed the 14th Street bridge out of Columbus was the River Front. Actually down below street level and on the Chatta hoochee. The owner had a standing order that if you finished your bottle of beer and threw it at a rat and hit it, he would buy you a beer. Most of the time he spent sweeping up broken bottles.I recall three other bars. The Silver Dollar, the Bucket of Blood (which it usually was on Saturday nights) and of course Beachie Howards. In 1945 I was assigned TDY to the Treasury Department on a War Bond tour.Sixty two days on the road putting on a simulated attack on a Japanese's pill box. Sixty two nights of drinking and carousing. One of our stops was Madison Wisconsin. One of the group members was from Madison and took us to a Dance Hall on University Avenue.
While trying to impress one of the girls (Ladies of the evening) another approached me and asked if the insignia on my hat was the 4th Infantry. When I said yes she asked if I had ever been to Beachie's in PC. I of course admitted my transgressions and she said she used to work there. Opened her purse and took out a pair of brass knuckles with Beachie Howard's on one side and Phenix City on the other. I didn't know that he girls were that tough in PC.
Another remembrance was a street brawl between some troopers and straight legs. I knew men on both sides so I remained neutral. As the PC cops and the MP's showed up, everybody ran except me. I knew I wasn't involved in any fighting, but the PC cops grabbed me and started to tattoo my skull with a night stick. Big Jim Bryant, an MP that I had known at Fort Warren, Wyoming in 1937-1940 stopped the cop by belting him and cold cocked him. Jim took me back to the Dispensary and they put six sutures in my head. Captain Siebert, the Doc on duty told me this did not qualify for the Purple Heart although it did happen in combat out side the United States. I wonder how many of your members remember the Textile Dance Hall in Columbus? Another great place to go was Cotton's Fish Camp.
It was always a great deal if you could pick up a girl in Columbus or PC and take her to the Camp, especially if you made out in the back seat of the taxi. When you got to the Camp nine times out of ten the girl would excuse herself to go to the can. You the told the driver to take you back to Columbus and you had a free piece that only cost the price of the taxi, usually three bucks round trip.
Just didn't try that too many times as the girls finally wised up. See how many of the troopers of the 50's know about that.

Hang high and keep this site open. It is a doozey for Troopers.
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